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Fairgrounds Neighborhood Snapshot

Census 2000 Data Tables: People & Household CharacteristicsHousing & Housing Costs, Income & Poverty, Transportation, Employment, Educational Attainment, Immigration & Language, Disabilities, Neighborhood Characteristics

The Fairgrounds neighborhood (a.k.a. Broad) is a mix of residential areas, the Fair Grounds, a cemetery, and several schools. Commercial establishments are concentrated mainly along Esplanade and on Gentilly Boulevard near the Fair Grounds, including small shops, eateries, a coffeehouse and a popular natural foods store.

Native Americans came first

Native Americans had been in the Fairgrounds area long before Europeans arrived. They traveled from the Mississippi River to Bayou St. John along the route that is now Bayou Road. Communities of Houma camped along the Bayou, according to John Chase, popular local cartoonist.

Europeans settled in the area in the early 1700s. They soon began bringing enslaved Africans into the area as unpaid laborers. Various owners held the land that are the present day Fairgrounds and Bayou St. John neighborhoods, during the 1700s and early 1800s. As was much of New Orleans at this time, the area was swampy with plantations scattered here and there.

© GNO Community Data Center

  De Saix Boulevard at Winthrop

A Haitian named "Dr. John," is believed to have lived and performed rituals in this area with a core of his followers, in the early 1800s. John Montenet was a Voodoo practitioner who many believed was the first to mix traditional Voodoo with various rituals, including those in Catholicism.

In the early 1800s, Faubourg Pontchartrain, the area that extended from Bayou St. John to Gentilly Boulevard, the approximate site of the Fair Grounds, was established. Joseph Pilie, surveyor, laid out angled lots and streets that aligned with Grand Route St. John.

Between the 1830s and 1850s, there was some residential construction in the area. Architect James Gallier, Jr. designed the Luling Mansion on Leda Street, built in 1865. The Louisiana Jockey Club owned the building from about 1880 to about 1900 and used it as their clubhouse.

St. Louis Cemetery No. 3

In 1835, the city of New Orleans owned what is now St. Louis Cemetery No. 3. Bayou Cemetery, as it was then called, is believed to have been the gravesite where those with leprosy were buried. In 1856, Reverend G. L. Duquesnay bought the land to be used as a cemetery for the St. Louis Cathedral.

St. Louis Cemetery No. 3 "is the final resting place of many prominent New Orleanians, among them Father Adrien Rouquette, who lived and worked among the Choctaw; Storyville photographer E. J. Belloq; and Thomy Lafon, the black philanthropist who bought the old Orleans Ballroom as an orphanage for African-American children and put an end to its infamous 'quadroon balls'." The politician and businessman, Walter Louis Cohen, a free man of color born in New Orleans, was buried in this cemetery as well.

Ed Muniz, founder of Endymion

Ed Muniz, the founder of the Krewe of Endymion, grew up not far from the Fair Grounds and stayed in the neighborhood a good part of his adult life. He loved Mardi Gras and from young dreamed of being a captain of a Mardi Gras krewe. The krewe's name, Endymion, was chosen after Ed placed a bet at the Fair Grounds on a horse by the same name and won. Following a number of attempts to establish his krewe, Ed's persistence paid off. He held a meeting in May 1966. Seventy new members signed up. The krewe was born and the first parade rolled on February 4, 1967.

"Endymion was one of the city's most popular horses in the mid-Sixties and the partial inspiration for the krewe's name. The thoroughbred won the $50,000 New Orleans Handicap on March 2, 1963."

Learn more about the Krewe of Endymion...

Fair Grounds Race Course

The Fair Grounds is the only racetrack in the Deep South that was in operation before the Civil War and continued successful operation after the war.

In 1852, the Union Race Course, the track's original name, was built on approximately 400 acres of land, changing the flavor of the swampy, agricultural area. An influx of wealthy plantation owners, merchants, professionals and gamblers were regular customers at the track.

By the beginning of the Civil War in 1861, New Orleans had become the "heart of American racing." During the war, various promoters leased the course and different games, such as boxing, baseball, bull and bear fights. The track's name changed three more times from the Creole Race Course to the Mechanics' and Agricultural Fair Grounds and finally to the Fair Grounds. Following the war, the Metairie Jockey Club resumed thoroughbred racing, eventually organized trotting and pacing. The Fair Grounds continues its popularity with local residents and city visitors today.

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

Photo by Kathy Helwick (

The Storyville Stompers lead a second-line crowd at JazzFest in New Orleans  

The last weekend in April and the first weekend in May are the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival dates each year. This major event is held at the Fair Grounds with nighttime concerts and free workshop series in other venues. Record numbers have packed into the Fair Grounds to hear a wide variety of music styles from thousands of artists, locally and nationally known, taste unique and/or popular cuisine from hundreds of restaurateurs, chefs and cooks, and see the skills of many artisans from around the United States. From its humble beginnings in Congo Square in 1970, when 300 musicians performed, the then one-day celebration has expanded to seven days of entertainment that attracts people from all over the world.

The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation, Inc., whose mission is "to promote, preserve, perpetuate and encourage the music, art, culture and heritage indigenous to the New Orleans area," sponsors the Jazz Fest and a number of other local programs.

LSU Dental School

In 1966, Loyola University agreed to relinquish ownership of their dentistry school to Louisiana State University, with the encouragement of the then governor of Louisiana, John J. McKeithan. The LSU School of Dentistry is situated on property that used to be a housing development for the United States Navy during World War II. In 1972, a permanent facility for the dental school was built through a grant from the United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare. The 22-acre campus is the only dental school in Louisiana.

Public art and community

Image courtesy ACNO (
  Spirit House sculpture: "Upon walking under Spirit House, look up. You will experience the bound cargo in the ship’s hold. Notice that each of the bound figures is carrying a symbol of West African culture. Africans did not come here empty-handed; they brought various elements of their culture with them."

Renowned artist John Scott and Associate Professor of Art at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Martin Payton, has brought art alive and a part of the Fairgrounds neighborhood. This 19-foot tall, aqua/blue sculpture, called Spirit House, graces DeSaix Circle, sitting majestically on the St. Bernard Avenue neutral ground. A pivotal feature is the 6- by 12-foot shotgun house with rich detailed silhouettes molded into its roof and walls. "John Scott says those silhouettes tell the story of the 'unnamed, unknown, African-American bricklayers, iron workers, fruit vendors, domestics and teachers who built the city.'

He views the sculpture as 'an urban tabernacle' that recalls Egyptian and Greek temples as well as the humble Afro-Caribbean shotgun design. 'We're hoping it becomes something symbolically important to the community.' "

Parents, students and faculty from Medard H. Nelson Elementary and St. Leo the Great schools embraced the project as the artists shared with them stories of African American heritage in the neighborhood and art elements and their meanings used in the sculpture. Students then created drawings that the artists transposed to the actual work of art. " incorporating various symbols and drawings of the artists and schoolchildren in the surrounding area, the artists are striving to build a work that creates a 'non-literal narrative', and will provide the community a sense of ownership."

The Arts Council of New Orleans' Percent for Art Program commissioned John Scott and Martin Payton to create Spirit House. Nearly 300 people, many from the neighborhood, were on hand for the dedication in April 2002.

Read more about the Spirit House

Sculpture whispers tales of Orleanians, present and past 'Spirit House' salutes African-Americans Times Picayune, 04/05/02

Arts Council of New Orleans, DeSaix Circle Project

Arts Council of New Orleans' Percent for Art Program


© GNO Community Data Center

  Stallings Playground

A number of public schools are in this community, including Langston Hughes Elementary and Medard H. Nelson Elementary. St. Leo the Great Catholic Church and School stands on Paris Avenue and Abundance Street.

A small number of playgrounds create larger areas of green space in the neighborhood, the most popular being Stallings.

Read more about the schools in the neighborhood

Medard H. Nelson Elementary

St. Leo the Great Catholic Church and School

For more information:

Dawson, Faith. Arts & Letters: A Culture Lost and Found. New Orleans Magazine

Louisiana Timeline

"Big Ray" the Taxi Driver and Licensed Tour Guide. OUT AND ABOUT, Voodoo or Hoodoo?, 1998

Lewyn, Myra and Ronnie Virgets. A Legacy of Endurance. Fair Grounds Race Course

St. Louis Cemetery No. 3, Trip Advisor

Notable African Americans From Louisiana

Trolling St. John's Bayou & Lake Pontchartrain. Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel Online: New Orleans

Chronological History of Fair Grounds

African Americans in New Orleans, Gens de Couleur Libres, Page 3

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation, Inc

LSUHSC School of Dentistry: History. A Brief History Of The LSU School Of Dentistry

LSUHSC School of Dentistry: Dean's Message

Sculpture whispers tales of Orleanians, present and past 'Spirit House' salutes African-Americans. Times Picayune, 04/05/02

Arts Council of New Orleans, DeSaix Circle Project,1-5-3-32

1999 Land Use Plan New Orleans City Planning Commission: Fairgrounds

Neighborhood Profiles Project Document prepared by the City of New Orleans Office of Policy Planning and the City Planning Commission. Published December 1980. Study available at the Williams Research Center (non-circulating collection).

Census 2000 Data Tables: People & Household CharacteristicsHousing & Housing Costs, Income & Poverty, Transportation, Employment, Educational Attainment, Immigration & Language, Disabilities, Neighborhood Characteristics

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Last modified: May 24, 2002